This article argues that actor-network theory, as an alternative to critical theory, has lost its critical impetus when examining commodification in healthcare. The paper claims that the reason for this, is the way in which actor-network theory’s anti-essentialist ontology seems to black box 'intentionality' and ethics of human agency as contingent interests. The purpose of this paper was to open the normative black box of commodification, and compare how Marxism, Habermas and ANT can deal with commodification and ethics in healthcare. (...) Moreover, a new account of 'intentionality' in critical thinking was elaborated. Using Strawson's analysis of 'reactive attitudes and resentment,' the ethical implications of commodification in health care were examined as an assessment of intentions. Synthesizing critical theory with the relational materialism of actor-network theory, this article advances a new approach that seeks to bridge interdisciplinary boundaries, and guide actor-network theory in a critical and humanist direction. Providing new theoretical insights on commodification and 'intentionality' in health care. (shrink)
The use of composite outcomes is becoming widespread in clinical trials. By combining individual outcome measures into a composite, researchers claim a composite can increase statistical precision and trial efficiency, expediting the trial by reducing sample size and cost, and consequently enabling researchers to answer questions that could not otherwise be answered. Another rationale given for using a composite is that it provides a measure of the net effect of the intervention that is more patient-relevant than any single outcome measure. (...) Critics, on the other hand, argue that the use of composites threatens the scientific objectivity of the trial by introducing new risks, and that in practice components are inconsistently defined, unreasonably combined, and inadequately reported. Philosophical scrutiny can help shed light in these disagreements and disentangle ethical and epistemological issues of composites in clinical trials. I examine common use of composites in cardiovascular trials, and show how composite results can be problematic, even misleading, if the proper range of scientific decisions and their consequences are ignored when judging the composite. Philosophies of science that are principled on normative versions of the argument from inductive risk can help explicate issues with composites. I conclude by suggesting ways of remedying composite issues in clinical trials. (shrink)
The purpose of this chapter is to describe what we see as several important new directions for philosophy of medicine. This recent work (i) takes existing discussions in important and promising new directions, (ii) identifies areas that have not received sufficient and deserved attention to date, and/or (iii) brings together philosophy of medicine with other areas of philosophy (including bioethics, philosophy of psychiatry, and social epistemology). To this end, the next part focuses on what we call the “epistemological turn” in (...) recent work in the philosophy of medicine; the third part addresses new developments in medical research that raise interesting questions for philosophy of medicine; the fourth part is a discussion of philosophical issues within the practice of diagnosis; the fifth part focuses on the recent developments in psychiatric classification and scientific and ethical issues therein, and the final part focuses on the objectivity of medical research. (shrink)
Due to the intricate nature of its subject matter, medicine is always threatened by speculations and disagreements about which among its entities exist, e.g., any specific biological structures, substructures or substances, pathogenic agents, pathophysiological processes, diseases, psychosomatic relationships, therapeutic effects, and other possible and impossible things. To avoid confusion, and to determine what entities an item of medical knowledge presupposes to exist if it is to be true, we need medical ontology. The term “medical ontology” we understand to mean the (...) study that seeks to ascertain what entities exist in the world of medicine, which formal relations hold between them, and whether there are any relatioships between types of medical research and practice, on the one hand; and the new worlds they create, on the other. (shrink)
In this paper, we illustrate some serious difficulties involved in conveying information about uncertain risks and securing informed consent for risky interventions in a clinical setting. We argue that in order to secure informed consent for a medical intervention, physicians often need to do more than report a bare, numerical probability value. When probabilities are given, securing informed consent generally requires communicating how probability expressions are to be interpreted and communicating something about the quality and quantity of the evidence for (...) the probabilities reported. Patients may also require guidance on how probability claims may or may not be relevant to their decisions, and physicians should be ready to help patients understand these issues. (shrink)
This paper aims to develop an account of the pursuitworthiness of models based on a view of models as epistemic tools. This paper is motivated by the historical question of why, in the 1960s, when many scientists hardly found QSAR models attractive, some pharmaceutical scientists pursued Quantitative Structure–Activity Relationship (QSAR) models despite the lack of potential for theoretical development or empirical success. This paper addresses this question by focusing on how models perform their heuristic functions as epistemic tools rather than (...) as potential theories. I argue that models perform their heuristic function by “constructing” phenomena from data in the sense that they allow the model users who interact with the medium of the models to recognise the phenomena as such. The constructed phenomena assist model users in identifying which conditional hypotheses that are focused on low-level regularities concerning entities such as chemical compounds are more “testworthy,” a concept that links the costs associated with hypothesis testing with the fertility of the hypothesis. (shrink)
The paper offers the concept of reversing the medical humanities. In agreement with the call from Kristeva et al. to recognise the bidirectionality of the medical humanities, I propose moving beyond debates of attitude and aptitude in the application and engagement (either friendly or critical) of humanities to/in medicine, by considering a reversal of the directions of epistemic movement (a reversal of the flow of knowledge). I situate my proposal within existing articulations of the field found in the medical humanities (...) meta-literature, pointing to a gap in the current terrain. I then develop the proposal by unfolding three reasons why we might gain something from exploring a reversed knowledge flow. First, a reversed knowledge flow seems to be an inherent—but still to be articulated—possibility in medical humanities and thus provides an opportunity for more knowledge. Second, the current unidirectionality of the field is founded on an inconsistency in the depiction of the connection between medicine and humanities, which risks creating the very divide that medical humanities set out to bridge. Practising a reversal may help avoid this divide. And third, a reversal might help rebalance the internal epistemic power, so as to motivate less external scepticism and in turn displace more external epistemic power towards medical humanities. I end the paper with a remark on precursors for a reversal, and ideas for where to go from here. (shrink)
Scientific and medical practice both relate to and differ from each other, as do discussions of how to handle decisions under uncertainty in the laboratory and clinic respectively. While studies of science have pointed out that scientific practice is more complex and messier than dominant conceptions suggest, medical practice has looked to the rigour of scientific and statistical methods to address clinical uncertainty. In this article, we turn to epistemological studies of the laboratory to highlight how clinical practice already has (...) strategies for dealing with messiness. We draw on Hans-Jo ̈rg Rheinberger’s Toward a History of Epistemic Things, in which he invokes the metaphor of a spider’s web to explain the role of tacit practices in experimental biochemistry for helping practitioners manage messiness. We argue that diagnostic practices in clinical medicine employ similar, albeit codified, procedures to evaluate epistemic significance, ensure sensitivity to the unforeseen, and allow focused grounds for action. We consider three practices: (a) the pre-set structure of medical records, ensuring broad coverage in initial anamnesis, (b) the use of lists of differential diagnoses and ongoing ‘anchoring and adjusting’ as inquiry progresses, and (c) shared decision-making as an occasion to synthesize empirical evidence and reopen inquiry for potential missed information. We end by suggesting that while philosophy of medicine may learn from laboratory epistemology, the sciences may learn something from medical practice. (shrink)
Most of the epidemiological models of the Covid-19 pandemic contain the reproduction number as a parameter. In this article we focus on some shortcomings regarding its role in driving health policies and political decisions. First, we summarize what R is and what it is used for. Second, we introduce a three-question matrix for the evaluation of any construct or parameter within a model. We then review the main literature about R to highlight some of its shortcomings and apply to them (...) our three-question matrix. Finally, we argue that these shortcomings are important for an epistemic and political evaluation of R. (shrink)
This study clarifies the need for a renewed account of the body in physiotherapy to fill sizable gaps between physiotherapeutical theory and practice. Physiotherapists are trained to approach bodily functioning from an objectivist perspective; however, their therapeutic interactions with patients are not limited to the provision of natural-scientific explanations. Physiotherapists’ practice corresponds well to theorisation of the body as the bearer of original bodily intentionality, as outlined by Merleau-Ponty and elaborated upon by enactivists. We clarify how physiotherapeutical practice corroborates Merleau-Ponty’s (...) critical arguments against objectivist interpretations of the body; particularly, his analyses demonstrate that norms of optimal corporeal functioning are highly individual and variable in time and thus do not directly depend on generic physiological structures. In practice, objectively measurable physical deviations rarely correspond to specific subjective difficulties and, similarly, patients’ reflective insights into their own motor deficiencies do not necessarily produce meaningful motor improvements. Physiotherapeutical procedures can be understood neither as mechanical manipulations of patients’ machine-like bodies by experts nor as a process of such manipulation by way of instructing patients’ explicit conscious awareness. Rather, physiotherapeutical practice and theory can benefit from the philosophical interpretation of motor disorders as modifications of bodily intentionality. Consequently, motor performances addressed in physiotherapy are interpreted as relational features of a living organism coupled with its environment, and motor disorders are approached as failures to optimally manage the motor requirements of a given situation owing to a relative loss of the capacity to structure one’s relation with their environment through motor action. Building on this, we argue that the process of physiotherapy is most effective when understood as a bodily interaction to guide patients towards discovering better ways of grasping a situation as meaningful through bodily postures and movements. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Francis Bacon and René Descartes have traditionally been presented as leaders of opposed philosophical currents. However, more and more studies show important continuities between their philosophies. This article explores one of them: their perspectives on medicine. The dominion over nature and the instinct for self-preservation are the central elements of the theoretical framework within which they inserted their assessments of medicine. Medicine is valued as the most outstanding discipline for its benefits for the care of the human being. Departing (...) from this start-point, one finds further coincidences about the status, practice, and reform of medicine. (shrink)
In this article I propose to reframe debates about ideals of emotion in medicine, abandoning the current binary setup of this debate as one between ‘clinical detachment’ and empathy. Inspired by observations from my own field work and drawing on Sky Gross’ anthropological work on rituals of practice as well as Henri Lefebvre’s notion of rhythm, I propose that the normative drive of clinical practice can be better understood through the notion of attunement. In this framework individual types of emotions (...) are not, as such, appropriate or inappropriate, but are evaluated depending on their synchronicity with the specific rhythms of the practice. To set up this proposal, I show how typical arguments about emotions in medicine—what I call emotion-entity focused frameworks—are insufficient. I then draw on ethnographic observations from two orthopaedic departments and interviews with medical practitioners to show (1) how clinical practice is driven by rhythmicity, shaped in the case of orthopaedic surgery by a clinical aim of efficient, controlled intervention, and (2) how clinicians continuously refer to this drive and the flow of rhythms when evaluating inappropriate or problematic emotion. I argue that the use of a rhythm framework rather than ideals of detachment or empathy allows for a sensitivity to the complexity and situation-dependent elements of emotional ideals in clinical practice; and I end by proposing the term ‘attuned concern’—which stresses the importance of regulation and adjustment to circumstances rather than of maintaining a constant distance/involvement—as a more fitting alternative to ‘clinical detachment’. (shrink)
Fat, in the context of dissection, is a nuisance, an obstruction to anatomical order and orientation. Yet it makes up a large part of the human body, and in the practice of dissection becomes one of the most prominent materials in the room, as it sticks to gloves and spreads through the dissection hall, making chairs greasy and instruments slippery. In this article I explore the role and significance of fat tissue in anatomical dissection for medical students. In anatomy, fat (...) remains largely an excess material; something superfluous, insignificant, left-over when the body is turned into an anatomical body consisting of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones, cleaned and displayable. But fat is also something which appears in experience as excessive, omnipresent, proliferating, and resistant to attempts to keep it in order. Much anthropological work within dissection practices has described the process of ‘cleaning’ the bodies, but often—mirroring medicine—these accounts follow the becoming of the anatomical body and leave the fat behind. In this article, I try to ‘stick with’ the fat and suggest that fat tissue, as an embodiment or material manifestation of the more-than-anatomical-body, may tell us something about bodies, subjectivity, scientific order, and dissection. (shrink)
A minimal essentialism (‘intrinsic biological essentialism’) about natural kinds is required to explain the projectability of human science terms. Human classifications that yield robust and ampliative projectable inferences refer to biological kinds. I articulate this argument with reference to an intrinsic essentialist account of HPC kinds. This account implies that human sciences (e.g., medicine, psychiatry) that aim to formulate predictive kind categories should classify biological kinds. Issues concerning psychiatric classification and pluralism are examined.
In this paper we focus on some new normativist positions and compare them with traditional ones. In so doing, we claim that if normative judgments are involved in determining whether a condition is a disease only in the sense identified by new normativisms, then disease is normative only in a weak sense, which must be distinguished from the strong sense advocated by traditional normativisms. Specifically, we argue that weak and strong normativity are different to the point that one ‘normativist’ label (...) ceases to be appropriate for the whole range of positions. If values and norms are not explicit components of the concept of disease, but only intervene in other explanatory roles, then the concept of disease is no more value-laden than many other scientific concepts, or even any other scientific concept. We call the newly identified position “value-conscious naturalism” about disease, and point to some of its theoretical and practical advantages. (shrink)
Displacing the physiological model that had held sway in 19th-century medical thinking, early 20th-century hormone research promoted an understanding of the body and sexual desires in which variations in sex characteristics and non-reproductive sexual behaviours such as homosexuality were attributed to anomalies in the internal secretions produced by the testes or the ovaries. Biotypology, a new brand of medical science conceived and led by the Italian endocrinologist Nicola Pende, employed hormone research to study human types and hormone treatments to normalise (...) individuals who did not conform to accepted medical norms. Latin American medical doctors, eugenicists, and sexologists took up biotypology with enthusiasm. This article considers the case studies of Italy, Argentina, and Brazil, and analyses the work of medical doctors who adopted a biotypological mode of reasoning and employed to various extents hormone therapies in their practice. By focusing on hormone therapies that aimed to normalise secondary sexual characteristics and the sexual instinct, the article suggests that while the existence of normality was contested to the point that a number of medical scientists argued that no such thing existed, the pursuit of normality was carried out in very practical terms through the new medical technologies hormone research had introduced. (shrink)
I respond to the 4 commentaries by Awais Aftab & Kristopher Nielsen, Hane Htut Maung, Diane O’Leary and Kathryn Tabb under 3 main headings: “What is the BPSM really?” & Why update it?; “Is our approach foundationally compromised?”, and finally, “Antagonists or fellow travellers?”.
Calls for evidence-based approaches to COVID-19 have sparked up discussions on the use of evidence for policy. In this note, we expand these discussions: while the debate has mostly focused on the types of evidence to be used for policy, we argue that the assessment of judgments involved in data practices and evidence production should play a central role in evaluating policy.
This is the first book to explore the epistemology and ethics of advanced imaging tests, in order to improve the critical understanding of the nature of knowledge they provide and the practical consequences of their utilization in healthcare. Advanced medical imaging tests, such as PET and MRI, have gained center stage in medical research and in patients’ care. They also increasingly raise questions that pertain to philosophy: What is required to be an expert in reading images? How are standards for (...) interpretation to be fixed? Is there a problem of overutilization of such tests? How should uncertainty be communicated to patients? How to cope with incidental findings? This book is of interest and importance to scholars of philosophy of medicine at all levels, from undergraduates to researchers, to medical researchers and practitioners (radiologists and nuclear physicians) interested in a critical appraisal of the methodology of their discipline and in the ethical principles and consequences of their work. -/- . (shrink)
In this paper, we use the case of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe to address the question of what kind of knowledge we should incorporate into public health policy. We show that policy-making during the COVID-19 pandemic has been biomedicine-centric in that its evidential basis marginalised input from non-biomedical disciplines. We then argue that in particular the social sciences could contribute essential expertise and evidence to public health policy in times of biomedical emergencies and that we should thus strive for (...) a tighter integration of the social sciences in future evidence-based policy-making. This demand faces challenges on different levels, which we identify and discuss as potential inhibitors for a more pluralistic evidential basis. (shrink)
The paper investigates the epistemological and communicative competences the experts need to use and communicate evidence in the reasoning process leading to diagnosis. The diagnosis and diagnosis communication are presented as intertwined processes that should be jointly addressed in medical consultations, to empower patients’ compliance in illness management. The paper presents defeasible reasoning as specific to the diagnostic praxis, showing how this type of reasoning threatens effective diagnosis communication and entails that we should understand diagnostic evidence as defeasible as well. (...) It argues that metaphors might be effective communicative devices to let the patients understand the relevant defeasors in the diagnostic reasoning process, helping to improve effective diagnosis communication, and also encouraging a change in patients’ beliefs and attitudes on their own experience of illness and illness’ management. (shrink)
The term ‘heat’ originates from the Old English word hǣtu, a word of Germanic origin; related to the Dutch ‘hitte’ and German ‘Hitze’. Today, we distinguish three different meanings of the word ‘heat’. First, ‘heat’ is understood in colloquial English as ‘hotness’. There are, in addition, two scientific meanings of ‘heat’. ‘Heat’ can have the meaning of the portion of energy that changes with a change of temperature. And finally, ‘heat’ can have the meaning of the transfer of thermal energy (...) from a hotter to a colder system or body. By contrast, for the Ancients and Scholastics, ‘heat’ was a manifest, real quality of bodies and there was an ontological distinction between biological or innate heat (which was regarded as an innate principle of life for warm-blooded animals) and the physical manifest heat of external objects, which is potentially harmful. During the late Renaissance period, however, both views changed fundamentally and evolved - via the application of physical and mechanical analogies - into the foundations for today’s unified mechanistic theory of heat. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that there are important ethical questions about healthcare improvement which are underexplored. We start by drawing on two existing literatures: first, the prevailing, primarily governance-oriented, application of ethics to healthcare ‘quality improvement’ (QI), and second, the application of QI to healthcare ethics. We show that these are insufficient for ethical analysis of healthcare improvement. In pursuit of a broader agenda for an ethics of healthcare improvement, we note that QI and ethics can, in some respects, (...) be treated as closely related concerns and not simply as externally related agendas. To support our argument, we explore the gap between ‘quality’ and ‘ethics’ discourses and ask about the possible differences between ‘good quality healthcare’ and ‘good healthcare’. We suggest that the word ‘quality’ both adds to and subtracts from the idea of ‘good healthcare’, and in particular that the technicist inflection of quality discourses needs to be set in the context of broader conceptualisations of healthcare improvement. We introduce the distinction between quality as a measurable property and quality as an evaluative judgement, suggesting that a core, but neglected, question for an ethics of healthcare improvement is striking the balance between these two conceptions of quality. (shrink)
One of the Belmont Report’s most important contributions was the clear and serviceable distinction it drew between standard medical practice and biomedical research. A less well-known achievement of the Report was its conceptualization of innovative practice, a type of medical practice that is often mistaken for research because it is new, untested, or experimental. Although the discussion of innovative practice in Belmont is brief and somewhat cryptic, this does not reflect the significant progress its authors made in understanding innovative practice (...) and the distinctive ethical issues it raises. This article explores the history and broader context of Belmont’s conception of innovative practice, its strengths and weaknesses, and its contemporary relevance for scholars working in bioethics and health policy. While this conception of innovative practice deserves our attention, it is inherently limited in some important ways. (shrink)
The mantra that "the best way to predict the future is to invent it" (attributed to the computer scientist Alan Kay) exemplifies some of the expectations from the technical and innovative sides of biomedical research at present. However, for technical advancements to make real impacts both on patient health and genuine scientific understanding, quite a number of lingering challenges facing the entire spectrum from protein biology all the way to randomized controlled trials should start to be overcome. The proposal in (...) this chapter is that philosophy is essential in this process. By reviewing select examples from the history of science and philosophy, disciplines which were indistinguishable until the mid-nineteenth century, I argue that progress toward the many impasses in biomedicine can be achieved by emphasizing theoretical work (in the true sense of the word 'theory') as a vital foundation for experimental biology. Furthermore, a philosophical biology program that could provide a framework for theoretical investigations is outlined. (shrink)
In the conclusion to the first book of the Treatise, Hume's skeptical reflections have plunged him into melancholy. He then proceeds through a complex series of stages, resulting in renewed interest in philosophy. Interpreters have struggled to explain the connection between the stages. I argue that Hume's repeated invocation of the four humors of ancient and medieval medicine explains the succession, and sheds a new light on the significance of skepticism. The humoral context not only reveals that Hume conceives of (...) skepticism primarily as a temperament, not a philosophical view or system. It also resolves a puzzle about how Hume can view skepticism as both an illness and a cure. The skeptical temperament can, depending on its degree of predominance, either contribute to or upset the balance of temperaments required for proper mental functioning. (shrink)
Within the evidence-based medicine construct, clinical expertise is acknowledged to be both derived from primary experience and necessary for optimal medical practice. Primary experience in medical practice, however, remains undervalued. Clinicians’ primary experience tends to be dismissed by EBM as unsystematic or anecdotal, a source of bias rather than knowledge, never serving as the “best” evidence to support a clinical decision. The position that clinical expertise is necessary but that primary experience is untrustworthy in clinical decision-making is epistemically incoherent. Here (...) we argue for the value and utility of knowledge gained from primary experience for the practice of medicine. Primary experience provides knowledge necessary to diagnose, treat, and assess response in individual patients. Hierarchies of evidence, when advanced as guides for clinical decisions, mistake the relationship between propositional and experiential knowledge. We argue that primary experience represents a kind of medical knowledge distinct from the propositional knowledge produced by clinical research, both of which are crucial to determining the best diagnosis and course of action for particular patients. (shrink)
Positive claims about narrative approaches to healthcare suggest they could have many benefits, including supporting person-centred healthcare (PCH). Narrative approaches have also been criticised, however, on both theoretical and practical grounds. In this paper we draw on epistemological work on narrative and knowledge to develop a conception of narrative that responds to these concerns. We make a case for understanding narratives as accounts of events in which the way each event is described as influenced by the ways other events in (...) the narrative are described. This view of narratives recognises that they can contribute knowledge of different kinds of connections between events: not just causal, and not just of patient’s perspectives. Additionally, narratives can add further epistemic value by suggesting potentially useful lines of inquiry. We take narrative approaches to healthcare to include clinicians considering both patients’ informational offerings and their own professional understandings as narratives. On this understanding, our account is able to overcome the major theoretical and practical criticisms that have been levelled against the use of narrative approaches in healthcare, and can help to explain why and how narrative approaches are consistent with PCH. (shrink)
How have and how might philosophers contribute to linking disability and activism in these peri-COVID-19 times, especially in forms of public engagement that go beyond podcasted talks and articles aimed at a public audience? How do we harness philosophical thinking to contribute positively to those living with disability whose vulnerabilities are heightened by this pandemic and the ableism highlighted by collective responses to it?
In ontological terms, what can we learn from the current state of the art in Epidemiology? Applying the Quinean criterion of ontological commitment, we can learn that there are several fundamental entities for the theory to work. One is a virus type entity, in which the (in)famous Coronavirus is a particular case. In metaphysical terms, this entity can, in principle, be understood in several ways. One of those ways, apparently, and perhaps intuitively, is the notion of object. Applying the metametaphysical (...) method of Unavailable Metaphysical Stories, we found that Epidemiology is incompatible with an object metaphysics. (shrink)
Cancer research is experiencing ‘paradigm instability’, since there are two rival theories of carcinogenesis which confront themselves, namely the somatic mutation theory and the tissue organization field theory. Despite this theoretical uncertainty, a huge quantity of data is available thanks to the improvement of genome sequencing techniques. Some authors think that the development of new statistical tools will be able to overcome the lack of a shared theoretical perspective on cancer by amalgamating as many data as possible. We think instead (...) that a deeper understanding of cancer can be achieved by means of more theoretical work, rather than by merely accumulating more data. To support our thesis, we introduce the analytic view of theory development, which rests on the concept of plausibility, and make clear in what sense plausibility and probability are distinct concepts. Then, the concept of plausibility is used to point out the ineliminable role played by the epistemic subject in the development of statistical tools and in the process of theory assessment. We then move to address a central issue in cancer research, namely the relevance of computational tools developed by bioinformaticists to detect driver mutations in the debate between the two main rival theories of carcinogenesis. Finally, we briefly extend our considerations on the role that plausibility plays in evidence amalgamation from cancer research to the more general issue of the divergences between frequentists and Bayesians in the philosophy of medicine and statistics. We argue that taking into account plausibility-based considerations can lead to clarify some epistemological shortcomings that afflict both these perspectives. (shrink)
Just over a decade ago, I began teaching medical students in the required preclinical course ethics and professionalism. The point of the course was to introduce basic ethical and professional norms through a small number of large group sessions, but mostly small group tutorials of 10 or 12 students engaging in weekly sessions combining readings from the literature and case scenarios highlighting real-life ethical tensions they either had, or would most likely, encounter in the future. The students wrote perceptively and (...) thoughtfully each week, and class was topical and lively. Some students went on to complete longer essays for a school-wide ethics competition and even to win. By all accounts a resounding... (shrink)